Samuel Hengel is, or should I say was, a mentally disturbed, probably depressed student in a rural area of Wisconsin who showed up at school yesterday with a pistol. He used the firearm to hold the teacher and students in one of his classes for several hours. (details here)

Scary part (well, there’s several scary parts): He actually fired the weapon a few times and kept everyone in the room for something like an hour or an hour and a half before school authorities were aware that there was a problem.

Anyway, he fired his weapon a number of times, shooting various objects, and finally on one of those occasions police stormed the room and Hengel shot himself. The word has just come down that he died in hospital of the self inflicted wound.

So yes, Samuel Hengel wins this week’s Poster Boy for Gun Control Award. But what we really, really need to know is this: Where did he get the damn guns (there were two pistols)? A related question: Why is it not routine for reporters to insist on knowing, and thus reporting, this fact in cases of rampage, school shooting, or other violent acts involving a firearm? Sometimes we find out, sometimes we don’t. In this case, no one is saying anything about it,and that’s fairly typical. The current story mentions “where” the weapons may have come from only in the context of how he got them from a hiding place outside the classroom, into the classroom. The real question is this: What is the name of the adult who owned the two pistols Hengel used?

Gun control. I used to be against it. Then I was indifferent. Now I’m realizing that we need it big time, because people are too stupid to be trusted to behave intelligently (is that a tautology? sorry..) without strict regulation from society, when it comes down to it.

Prove me wrong.

PS: This is a great example of how arming principals and teachers and janitors and stuff would have little effect. They didn’t even know it was happening. If the teacher in the room was known or suspected to be armed, he may have shot her dead first, instead of merely blowing away the projector.

Comments

  1. #1 Armond
    November 30, 2010

    I saw that he shot the projector. What was the movie?

  2. #2 Liberator
    November 30, 2010

    Are we going to have this argument again? There are too many guns out there already to do anything about. This kid probably bought the gun off the street.

  3. #3 MadScientist
    November 30, 2010

    I don’t know if gun control would have helped in this instance. Let’s say the gun was taken from his dad. For all we know the gun is locked away and unloaded. However, the kid has access to the keys because dad frequently gets the kid to fetch the guns whenever they go out to the firing range on weekends; of course he knows where the box of ammo is as well. Now good ol’ daddy just doesn’t suspect his kid would ever do anything like this so there was no obvious reason to keep the keys away from someone who’s old enough to be legally allowed to fire handguns under supervision.

    I’ve always been pro gun control (but against banning ‘em). Gun control is a good thing, but it’s no miracle solution to all gun related problems.

    People just shouldn’t take guns to school though; there is no evidence to support the claim that things would turn out better if only everyone had a gun – it’s a post-fact fallacy like “if only I’d bought 2 lotto tickets as usual instead of 1, *I* would have got that 50 million bucks.” Of course if someone does have a gun and finds themselves in such a situation, it’s their choice whether to use it or not.

  4. #4 Anastasia
    November 30, 2010

    L, there are lots of guns out on the streets and in homes all over the US, sure. That doesn’t mean that attempts to make guns more difficult to get wouldn’t be useful. Existing guns can be taken off the street very easily with cash for guns programs.

  5. #5 Stephanie Z
    November 30, 2010

    Liberator, we could “have this argument again,” or you could provide some reasoning as to why Australia can succeed in getting guns to go away but we couldn’t. I’ve yet to see anyone do that. Usually they just go away when asked.

    You could also explain how many guns you think are for sale on “the street” in a metro area of 25,000 max.

    Or you could just think instead of acting like a bot.

  6. #6 itzac
    November 30, 2010

    Anastasia, I wouldn’t even bother with cash for guns. Once you’ve properly regulated the sale of guns, confiscating illegally owned weapons in the course of regular police work will get guns off the street in fairly short order.

    But if you really want to cut down the amount of gun violence in the US, you need to deal with income inequality, and just plain stop being so god damned afraid of each other.

  7. #7 Gish
    November 30, 2010

    I imagine quite a few guns are available on ‘the street’ in rural America where both guns are common and the need to trade something for methamphetamine is common.

    Guns have an intrinsic value in trade and since the rural poor have easy access to meth but often lack cash guns tend to provide a ready currency that may not easily translate to urban areas.

  8. #8 HP
    November 30, 2010

    Maybe if we just disarm the police, we can remove the temptation to commit “suicide by cop,” which is clearly what happened here.

  9. #9 Stephanie Z
    November 30, 2010

    Gish, you could look at the data instead of guessing. Even just a quick search in the time I had before I had to leave my desk shows that there is a greater availability of legal handguns in rural areas and less illegal use of handguns. That makes the assumption that the gun was illegally acquired something of a jump.

    http://www.emich.edu/cerns/downloads/papers/PoliceStaff/Unsorted/RURAL%20CRIME%20AND%20RURAL%20POLICING%20PRACTICES%20-%20MULTI%20CULTURAL%20LAW%20ENFORCEMENT.pdf

  10. #10 Kevin R
    November 30, 2010

    Gish, guns aren’t just currency for meth. They are often used as barter for any number of basic needs from home and car repairs, to school clothes, to christmas gifts for the kids. You buy guns when times are good and sell them when times are hard. Unlike bank accounts, they are often invisible to the IRS, to bill collectors, to divorce lawyers, etc. They have a steady value and can be easily sold or traded, on short notice, for cash and goods. Speaking as someone who lived a large part of my life amongst “the rural poor”, I can attest to the value of guns as an alternate currency for which there is no equally attractive alternative.

  11. #11 Warren
    November 30, 2010

    Yeah, this was a weird one, though I’m not sure it’s fair to characterize the kid as “probably depressed” right now. Reports I’d read from school officials seemed to indicate he wasn’t showing any signs of trouble prior to this incident, at all, ever. Certainly a kid can cover up his depression, but not that successfully, I’d think.

    Of course the school officials might all be in denial too. What kind of school appears to have an incident where an armed teenager takes over a classroom – and no one knows about it until a parent tries to physically locate his child?

    It also struck me as odd that he’d been able to fire several shots with no one knowing about it outside the classroom. Even a .22 is relatively loud, though my Ruger pistol is by far the quieter of the .22s I have. I suppose a classroom way at the other end of the hall, with the door closed, might provide sufficient distance and soundproofing, but still.

    Something is just plain off here. Something isn’t quite adding up.

    As for where he got the pistols – probably from home. The .22 might well have been his own; it’s the kind of first firearm a lot of kids would probably be given around the age of 12, along with (or instead of) a .22 rifle. The 9mm could easily have been taken from a parent’s nightstand.

    Greg – strong gun control, as noted, probably wouldn’t have made a difference here. England has some tight restrictions, and it still has people going on shooting sprees.

    A deranged individual intent on causing mayhem will do so with whatever’s at hand. This can be a firearm; it can also e a knife or pitchfork, or a home-made pipe or fertilizer bomb. It can be something intended to blow up a Christmas tree in downtown Portland, or it can be a car driven into a crowd.

    Until we can legislate both wisdom and sanity (these might be synonyms), there’s no way to stop these kinds of events from occurring.

    Stephanie Z – the Australian method seems to be working, if Wikipedia can be trusted. However, I don’t see an indication that they’ve made guns “go away” so much as got them out of the hands of the irresponsible. (This is, by far, a good thing.)

    Gish – the suggestion that “rural America” is somehow overrun with both drugs and guns is, at best, hogwash; at worst it’s metrocentric elitism. I live in a section of “rural America” and there really aren’t guns for sale on every street corner, right next to the meth labs; there aren’t guns being traded for drugs as a “ready currency”. Do you have actual citations to back your claims, or would you care to retract them?

  12. #12 Pierce R. Butler
    November 30, 2010

    … kept everyone in the room for something like an hour or an hour and a half before school authorities were aware that there was a problem.

    Do US high schools not rotate students between classrooms every 50 minutes nowadays?

  13. #13 itzac
    November 30, 2010

    Warren, any time this happens, people always start out saying they didn’t see it coming. As a little time passes people will start realizing the signs they ignored. From the language surrounding the family in the article Greg links to, I suspect there might something hinky going on there as well.

  14. #14 Kierra
    November 30, 2010

    Do US high schools not rotate students between classrooms every 50 minutes nowadays?

    The article says that he entered the class at 1:30 pm, so I’m guessing it was the last class period of the day. Which would also explain why it was a parent that first noticed the absence of one of the students rather than another teacher. It’s not unheard of for high schools to let out in the early afternoon. Usually because they start before the middle and elementary schools in a district and all three levels use the same buses.

  15. #15 Kapitano
    November 30, 2010

    Prove me wrong.

    Um…burden of proof?

  16. #16 Gregory Humphrey
    November 30, 2010

    We all should feel responsible. After all, we allow this to happen every day in our nation. We allow that to happen when we do not step up and force policy makers to enact tougher gun control laws.

    That this Marinette School shooting was a huge tragedy goes without saying. Problem is that this shooting was not an isolated case in America. Every day there are countless shootings that end in murder, suicide, pain, blood, and funerals.

  17. #17 Don Pelischek
    November 30, 2010

    Guns were just as available when I was a student in school. I am 74 years old. Availability of guns has NOTHING to do with it. Students had problems back then just like today, but a kid did not grab a gun and take it to school to either kill themselves or others. There were NO incidents in the whole country like this when I went to school. If present conditions stay the same, it will NOT get better…..violence in TV, movies, games, family breakdown, shutting out God in lives, etc. etc.

  18. #18 Azkyroth
    November 30, 2010

    violence in TV, movies, games,

    Oh, christ, not THIS shit again…

  19. #19 Azkyroth
    November 30, 2010

    On that note…

    Greg, what do you think of the insight I had that the idea that violent video games cause violent actions towards real people might be rooted in the same cognitive biases that produce (or or flat out be an example of) belief in sympathetic magic?

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2010

    Warren,

    Yeah, this was a weird one, though I’m not sure it’s fair to characterize the kid as “probably depressed” right now.

    Witnesses at the scene said he was depressed. I took that at face value and added “probably” because, who knows? Probably should have said “possibly”. Yes, there are the usual people who are saying that there was no sign of anything (school officials have that routine down), but what I read was from people talking about his behavior in the room with the guns. Again, who knows?

    It also struck me as odd that he’d been able to fire several shots with no one knowing about it outside the classroom.

    Apparently he did. I wonder if those new expensive anti-terrorist doors they put on the classrooms are sound proof. That would be ironic.

  21. #21 anonymousmagic
    November 30, 2010

    Well, the kid did hunting, so he must’ve had some legal weapons in his house. That’s my beef with legal guns for anyone other than law enforcement and military. Most incidents involving children and guns are accidental shootings by “legal” guns. If you simply ban them, the police has a lot less trouble to figure out if someone has a permit.

    Less guns available mean less chance for a kid to get hold of one and use it in school.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2010

    Greg – strong gun control, as noted, probably wouldn’t have made a difference here.

    Not so. (I hate that expression) Guns should not be freely owned by teenagers. Guns should be well locked up. No, no, don’t tell me that a determined teenager would get at the gun anyay. Nobody knows that. What we do know is this: Whenever something like this happens we shy away from the question of how the kid got daddy’s gun, because we don’t want daddy to feel bad because he already feels bad because his son just blew his fucking head off. Sorry, daddy, but you need to to to prison for reckless manslaughter. Same as if your kid drank a bottle of your scotch and ran over and killed somebody.

    Try that for ten years, see if it gets the statistics to move. if not, fine, let everybody do what they want. But it will make a difference.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2010

    <>This can be a firearm; it can also e a knife or pitchfork,

    Warren, we are talking about a young man who shot up a classroom and then shot himself to death.

    Run the scerio with a pitchfork.

    He goes after the projector with the pitchfork. They grab him and take him to the principal’s office, his ass is in trouble.

    Or, say he holds the classroom at bay for two hours, somehow, with a pitchfork. Then, the cops think he’s about to toss some hay or something, so they bust into the room. He tries to kill himself with the pitchfork.

    Not likely.

    No, the old argument that “they’ll do whatever whatever with whatever whatever you can’t change that whatever whatever” is stooooopid. You should know that by now. We’ve been over this before. You can’t take over a classroom with a pitchfork, and then kill yourself with it.

    I’ll let Stephanie kick your ass over the suicide rates vis-a-vis firarms, she knows the stats cold.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2010

    Pierce: less and less so. My wife teaches 86 minute periods, for instance. Many schools are on these new schedules. But I’m not sure what is going on here.
    Plus, what Kierra said.

    Kap: “Um…burden of proof?” Ten years under my rules, then we compare data.

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2010

    anonymousmagic: Gun control does not mean baning the guns and thus forcing people to get illegal guns to commit suicide in front of their classmates. It means requiring that they be handled properly. Locked up. Really really locked up. And if people can’t manage that, then lock them up at the local police station and let people sign them out. At this point, gun owners are NOT keeping up their end of the social bargin at all.

    Azkyroth: I don’t accept the premise that people doing dumb-ass things with guns is new. Maybe it is, but have you ever looked at crime rates over the last couple of centuries? Out here in the wild west, where I live (well, it was the wild west in 1840) everybody had a gun, and a lot .. a LOT.. of people died by being shot. The murder rate was ten or twenty times what it is now in the cowboy days.

    That a couple of old guys have an idealized view of the world
    before god got kicked out of the town square (also a fantasy … that never happened either) means very little.

    One thing that changed big time since the old days is the centralized school district. Why not blame that? Most of those kids spend the first 45 minutes up to 2 hours on a school bus first thing in the morning. That is at least as traumatizing as a video game!

    But yeah, I’m not sure I like these bloody shoot ‘em up games. But then again I’ve never tried one. Maybe I should get one. Do they have them for the Wii?

  26. #26 Stephanie Z
    November 30, 2010

    Warren, the stats Greg referred to show that suicide attempts with guns are three times more likely to succeed than those using the next most successful method (strangulation). Pitchforks didn’t make the list.

    And no, it wasn’t completely clear, but “make guns go away” in the context of talking to someone who said we can’t do anything about this problem is not the same thing as “make all guns go away.”

  27. #27 RZ
    November 30, 2010

    You people are all clueless!!!!!!!! You have no idea what Marinette, WI is! So take your liberal BS and shove it you know where!!! This kid you are all demonizing was a great kid! Something was going on that the people closest to him didn’t even see coming! His parents are completely involved in his life!
    He didn’t threaten the other kids! And little do you all know that at 12 years old every little boy including Sam goes deer hunting which

    You don’t know what happened! You only see the speculation and lies on TV!

    This child did not buy guns off the street he was an avid outdoorsman and hunter and fisherman!

    Seriously leave this boy rest in peace and find another hobby!!!!!!!

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2010

    …. but there is probably a violent video game that uses a pitchfork.

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2010

    RZ, I am not deamonizing the kid, and neither is anyone else here. I am inclined to deamonize whichever adult let this happen.

    I have cousins just north of Marinette, and I found out about this story from our local news. You’re writing to us from Texas. Go fuck a longhorn.

    This child did not buy guns off the street he was an avid outdoorsman and hunter and fisherman!

    I suspect, and have even speculated, that it was his daddy’s gun. Do you know? Was it your gun?

    Seriously leave this boy rest in peace and find another hobby!!!!!!!

    He’s seen to that himself, with the help of whoever’s gun this was, and with the help of people like you who insist that when a young man takes two semiautomatic pistols to school, holds his classmates in a room for a few hours, and then blows himself away in front of them, that everything is just fucking honky-dory, because … he hunts? Because nobody was smart enough or aware enough to see it coming? Because it’s better that no one locks up their guns, allowing this sort of horrible event to happen, than to have some kind of respect for the danger and understanding of responsibility?

    RZ, do you know what a “liberal” is? Someone with the intelligence and wherewithal to take care of your sorry ass because you can’t tel it (your ass) from your elbow. Be thankful that we are here to implement regulations to run your life, because you and your are doing an absolutely piss poor job of it.

  30. #30 RZ
    November 30, 2010

    Greg- he did not blow himself away in front of any of his classmates! They were all out! Take your Liberal ass and get out of my life! You don’t make it better to make it worse! Congrats on having family around the area but that still doesn’t give you any right to think you know! Every sad situation is different! Columbine those kids were flat out nuts and everyone knew it!
    Little do you know these kids will never forget that day but they will also not hold it against Sam! They were all at the vigusl tonight praying for him!
    This isn’t about politics but that’s all you people seem to ever care about! You don’t think his parents (who are amazing people) are going to wonder the rest of their lives!?
    I didn’t make it about hunting either. He was hunting until Sunday 1 day before this happened!

    Seriously people let this community mourn in peace and get out of their lives! Especially the media! This small town can’t handle your craziness!

  31. #31 george.w
    November 30, 2010

    …violence in TV, movies, games, family breakdown…

    So you never read the Bible? Samson killed ten thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Let’s see John McClaine match that. Then there’s the passages where the good guys are supposed to smash little babies against rocks, and hell, there’s the part where God killed the whole damn world except for a boat-load of incestuous misfits and their pets.

    As for families breaking down, average lifespan was what, forty? Forty-five?

  32. #32 Azkyroth
    November 30, 2010

    Yes and no. See here and scroll down to the corresponding entry here.

  33. #33 Warren
    December 1, 2010

    Greg:

    Witnesses at the scene said he was depressed. I took that at face value and added “probably” because, who knows? Probably should have said “possibly”.

    Fair enough. I was thinking of “depressed” in the clinical sense, as in diagnosed with a treatable cerebrochemical imbalance. We tend to bandy the word “depressed” around a lot when what we often mean is “bummed out”, having a case of “the blues”, or under intense acute stress.

    I think the timing is a little interesting too. Right after Thanksgiving, when families all get together and share, and sometimes bicker, and sometimes pick away at each other. What happened last Thursday around the supper table at the Hengle household, I wonder? What hidden wounds were left to fester for four days?

    I wonder if those new expensive anti-terrorist doors they put on the classrooms are sound proof. That would be ironic.

    Good point. If they’re blast-proof (or at least -resistant), it would suggest that they absorb sounds as well.

    I don’t recall seeing any mention of which gun he actually used to do the shootings, so I’m simply surmising it was the .22, since it would have a quieter report than a 9mm. Also, it seems he survived his self-inflicted wound for a while, which also suggests a relatively small caliber round with less stopping power.

    Maybe the 9mm actually wasn’t loaded and he didn’t have any ammo for it; maybe it was something he brought along as an extra level of threat. Or maybe he didn’t get a chance to use it – or maybe he did, in the end. If he had it but no ammo, that would suggest, at least, that if the 9mm belonged to his parents, the bullets had been locked away.

    I’m proximally certain the .22 was his, though, and that’s only because of my hunches about kids that age in towns that size in rural areas.

    I bet I even know what it was: A Ruger .22 Mk III, essentially identical to my own target pistol. It’s an extremely well-made gun, with superb machining and a firing mechanism that will handle just about any LR round you put through it; and given its outstanding accuracy it’s a great little gun to go plinking with. I can easily imagine Hengel’s parents giving it to him for Christmas or a birthday a few years ago.

    Guns should not be freely owned by teenagers. Guns should be well locked up.

    In reverse order of those declarations: yes, if there is any chance that an untutored kid can get hold of them; and maybe.

    “Maybe” because I see firearm ownership as being a little like sex education. If it’s kept locked away from kids, it won’t stop them from experimenting with whatever they can get their hands on. Early, regular, and wise adult guidance certainly helps prevent misadventures, or at least mitigates the likelihood of disaster.

    Sorry, daddy, but you need to to to prison for reckless manslaughter. Same as if your kid drank a bottle of your scotch and ran over and killed somebody.

    Oh, I suspect we’re in sync here.

    This can be a firearm; it can also e a knife or pitchfork,

    Warren, we are talking about a young man who shot up a classroom and then shot himself to death.

    Run the scerio with a pitchfork.

    Run it with the pipe bomb, fertilizer bomb, or car that I mentioned. Cherry-picking your responses doesn’t prove your argument, and doesn’t negate my points.

    Kierra @14: Apparently there was a class after that one, but he’d put a Post-It note on the door telling the students to go meet in the library. The classroom was dark at the time, and the doors were locked. He put some planning into this.

    Don Pelischek @17: Violence in schools, even lethal, is actually nothing new; what’s new today is the instant, international news access we have. Schools were getting bombed as far back as the 1920s or ’30s.

    Blaming it on video game violence is a bit myopic. Given your declared age, you were raised in the time of popular Westerns on TV and in the movies, all of which featured outlaws and lawmen shooting the blazing tar out of each other with six-guns. Did that lead to an increase in violence? By your account, no – so what has changed since the days of your childhood?

    Stephanie Z @26:

    Warren, the stats Greg referred to show that suicide attempts with guns are three times more likely to succeed than those using the next most successful method (strangulation). Pitchforks didn’t make the list.

    Valid – however, statistics also show that strangulation is the number-one method of suicide chosen by teens, with successful attempts far outranking guns. What do we make of or do with this datum?

    I think it makes more sense to focus on why teens are killing themselves than on the methods they’re choosing to do it, unless teen suicide is being used as a hobbyhorse to demonize guns.

    RZ @27:

    He didn’t threaten the other kids!

    No, he merely locked them into a darkened classroom (at gunpoint), confiscated their cellular phones (at gunpoint), and shot randomly around the room. He didn’t threaten them at all. I’m sure none of them were in any way frightened that they were about to die.

  34. #34 Azkyroth
    December 1, 2010

    So you never read the Bible? Samson killed ten thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.

    The jaws of asses have been responsible for orders that got considerably more people killed since guns were invented.

  35. #35 MadScientist
    December 1, 2010

    I guess if gun cabinets with 4-number combination locks were mandated that could help – so long as the adults don’t give away the combination (many will).

    I remember Japanese cartoons from 20 years ago being extremely violent; I can’t recall those shows ever appearing in the USA, but Japan had no surge of violent crimes despite their cartoons. As far as I can remember there’s always the odd gang that goes and kills people for no apparent reason – they’ve been around far longer than video games or Quentin Tarantino. Despite religious groups crying about violent games etc, they just haven’t got any facts to back up their claims – they’re worse than Michael Moore.

  36. #36 Warren
    December 1, 2010

    MadScientist, unless memory fails, teen suicide rates in Japan are very high per capita.

  37. #37 Samantha Vimes
    December 1, 2010

    Warren, the high teen suicide rate in Japan is because of the incredible pressure on them to get into the best schools through exams.
    They are not despondent because their cartoon ninja gang lost a fight. MadScientist was making the point that TV violence is not the root of the problem.

  38. #38 Stephanie Z
    December 1, 2010

    Warren, given that those who are unsuccessful in one suicide attempt very rarely go on to a second, it is certainly also worthwhile to discuss the factors that make a suicide attempt successful. It is particularly worthwhile when the means in question has so little else to recommend it to society.

    It is also quite possible to give kids exposure to responsible gun handling without giving them unsupervised access to guns. It takes work, but given that we’re talking about protecting people under unique stresses and who haven’t reached full emotional maturity (particularly on subjects like empathy and mortality), work is not an unreasonable thing to demand.

  39. #39 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2010

    Greg- he did not blow himself away in front of any of his classmates! They were all out!

    If that’s true, then I stand corrected. But that is not what was indicated in the news reports.

    Take your Liberal ass and get out of my life!

    OK, OK, I’ll leave.

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2010

    Hey, wait a minute, this is MY blog, I’m not going anywhere!

    Anyway, you seem to think that I’m putting down this kid, but I am not. Never did. What I am saying, and you are ignoring, is that whoever allowed those guns into his hands has a large degree of responsibility here. But why bother repeating that to you, you really aren’t listening.

    Geroge: Samson killed ten thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.

    I did that the other day in Zelda. Just saying.

  41. #41 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2010

    Warren:

    Run it with the pipe bomb, fertilizer bomb, or car that I mentioned. Cherry-picking your responses doesn’t prove your argument, and doesn’t negate my points.

    I’m not cherry picking my responses. I’m referring to well documented facts. Guns make it all so much more dangerous. There just is now way around it. And if a weapon came on the scene that was equally or nearly equally consistently dangerous we’d want to deal with that, wouldn’t we? And we probably would if it was not a toy daddy wants to maintain free and unfettered access to and use of.

    Regarding strangulation: Warren, please look back at what you are saying.

    Let’s say Toyota put out a car where the breaks failed randomly. Same car, the engine blew up randomly. Either one could kill you. Car owners get all mad at Toyota and say “Fix this exploding car” and Toyota resonds “Hey, our breaks could kill you, why bother with the explosion issue.”

    What is the reason you’re arguing that thouands dead from suicide more than otherwise because guns are so available as being a problem. What is your reason for not caring about those people and their families? Are you in the gun business or something?

  42. #42 Russell
    December 1, 2010

    Unless Wisconsin is far stranger than I imagine, parents would not be subject to manslaughter, and likely not to any crime, merely because their teenager drank their scotch and then committed vehicular homicide. They would be exposed to civil liability on several grounds: their car, their kid. In most states, there are a host of issues in between, mostly regarding laws about care for minors, depending on whether the parents knew or allowed the teen to drink and similar issues.

    The parallel with guns is quite good. I would worry that Greg is next going to urge liquor control, except I figure with the progress he is making on gun control, that will wait another century or two.

  43. #43 Stephanie Z
    December 1, 2010

    Funny thing, Russell: If the kid had gotten drunk and threatened a bunch of people before his intoxication killed him, the press would be reporting how he got access to the alcohol. Why doesn’t it do the same with guns?

  44. #44 KristinMH
    December 1, 2010

    “Maybe” because I see firearm ownership as being a little like sex education. If it’s kept locked away from kids, it won’t stop them from experimenting with whatever they can get their hands on. Early, regular, and wise adult guidance certainly helps prevent misadventures, or at least mitigates the likelihood of disaster.

    Let me be the first to point out that this is good advice for sex ed, because virtually all humans will have sex of some kind at some point during their life. That’s because it’s a basic mammalian drive that virtually all of us have.

    BUT:

    Warren, while shooting a gun may be pleasurable, it’s not a basic human desire that (almost) all of us experience. It’s possible to go through your entire life without using or even seeing a gun in any context other than a TV cop drama, and to be totally fine with this.

    In fact I’d bet shooting is an acquired taste, like drinking alcohol or coffee, and if you didn’t train yourself to enjoy it and the cultural baggage surrounding it, no one would ever do it if they didn’t have to.

  45. #45 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2010

    Russell, Wisconsin would indeed be a very strange place if wrongful death was not something one could pursue in civil court.

    The point is, there IS a conversation about parental and retailer (including bars) responsibility and alcohol related injury, death, and various crimes. There is NOT a conversation (other, apparently, then right here on this blog that you find so worrisome) about the same thing vis-a-vis deadly firearms.

  46. #46 Russell
    December 1, 2010

    “Authorities are now trying to determine where the teen got the weapons.” So reports this CNN article on Hengel:

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/12/01/wisconsin.hostage/

    Which suggests to me that at least some of the press would be reporting where Hengel acquired the firearms if that were now known. Not knowing any studies of news reporting on teen shooting incidents, I have no idea what is routinely reported. If anyone does such a study, I hope they have the sense to distinguish failure to report due to lack of substantiated information from failure to report due to other reasons.

  47. #47 Russell
    December 1, 2010

    Greg, it seems to me there has been quite a bit of discussion around retailer responsibility for firearms, and substantial evolution of laws on that. When I was a teenager, just about anyone could walk into the local Sears store with cash, and walk out with a gun. Today, one has to have some sort of ID, and depending on the state and gun, has to pass some sort of background check to purchase a firearm from a retailer.

  48. #48 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2010

    Russell, every single time I read of a shooting I email the local reporters. Often, the idea of pursuing where the weapons come from is a novel idea. There has been some reporting on this that happened specifically because I encouraged it. (Well, one case and there was no definitive answer.) This is not something I just thought of. Do I need as study? That would be nice. Almost equivalent, though, is beating my head against a wall for three years.

    Regarding the bit you cite, sort of … that issue is still more about how the guns got into the school rather than which adult owned the guns and let the kid have them one way or another. But it could lead in that direction, starting to look like it is.

  49. #49 marky barfy
    December 1, 2010

    I promise I’m not trying to derail the discussion, but…
    isn’t the bigger issue male adolescence and the atrocious coping mechanisms induced and maintained by the ‘testosterone fog.’
    I remember my own adolescence and how emotionally separated I felt from even my closest peers. Sexual thoughts, aggressive inappropriate revenge fantasies for even slight perceived offenses, and, especially, a strong desire to assert control over my life highjacked a disproportionate share of what would be characterized as a ‘healthy’ mental life.
    I don’t THINK my experience was uncommon, but I don’t know.
    What I’m trying to say is, that society has not responsibly dealt with the issues surrounding male adolescence.
    This incident speaks more to this problem, in my opinion, than it does to the issue of gun control.

  50. #50 Greg III Notchkess
    December 1, 2010

    What is it about all these Gregs? Well, apparently on gabberfacedot_com, some fellow 14 yr something middle eastern kid says congrats to Sam for (also Younger bro Ben H is also a participant as evident in the comment ‘cc’.)it to Round 15 of Call of Duty Web Game NaziZombies edition. Another older kid, ARussell with a AstroZombie nickname is also a participant. So, Apparently Sam H. had a trigger finger and addiction to that violent Game Site. Coupled w/Weapons and ammo that parents might have bought is a bad mix, NOT To mention, having a Jr High class where they HAVE to watch 50′s or 60′s era films about Girl/Boy relationships, Science subjects, etc (boring, so the kid thinks). Heck, I was addicted to EBAY buying Baseball Card Collecting yrs ago..and would go online at work, home, whenever. Yet, Youth addictions fail to separate reality from aggression letting fantasy.

  51. #51 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2010

    Marky, that is the overarching issue. But it is mot the immeidate issue in that we can’t do the My Favorite Martian thing (yet) but we can lock up the guns now. We just have to get past this “keep your laws off my toys’ mentality. Which goes back to your point but extended into the “get off my lawn” years.

  52. #52 MadScientist
    December 1, 2010

    @Warren: But what does that have to do with guns or violent cartoons?

  53. #53 Warren
    December 1, 2010

    Samantha Vimes @37, MadScientist @52: I was vague; my fault. My point was that there is no model society. While Japan might have low gun violence, it has many other problems. I’d tend to agree that there isn’t a correlation between cartoon violence and social violence, but I think it’s worth mentioning that kids are offing themselves over there, too.

    Stephanie Z @38, I think we’re probably in agreement here, at least for the most part.

    Greg:

    I’m not cherry picking my responses. I’m referring to well documented facts.

    When you zero in n one specific element of a larger list I’ve written, attack that element as ludicrous (which it was; I know that – there was some clown who actually tried to bring a pitchfork into the county offices here last year, and he was charged with carrying a weapon), and imply that your assault on that one specific ludicrous item has somehow defeated my entire premise, that most certainly is cherry-picking.

    Regarding strangulation: Warren, please look back at what you are saying.

    Let’s say Toyota put out a car where the breaks failed randomly. Same car, the engine blew up randomly. Either one could kill you. Car owners get all mad at Toyota and say “Fix this exploding car” and Toyota resonds “Hey, our breaks could kill you, why bother with the explosion issue.”

    To carry your analogy to the point that it actually corresponds with anything I’ve said, the first question would be, if Toyota refused to fix any of the issues, why drivers persist in purchasing Toyotas.

    What is the reason you’re arguing that thouands dead from suicide more than otherwise because guns are so available as being a problem. What is your reason for not caring about those people and their families? Are you in the gun business or something?

    Oh my – we go from cherry-picking to ad hominem. I’m quite sure I’ve never made any attempt to insult you personally or directly, so I don’t know why you felt it reasonable to do so here.

    At no time did I say I was unsympathetic to suicidal teenagers or their families, nor did I imply it. However, teen suicide statistics are being employed to cast guns in a bad light. There are plenty of good, compelling reasons to support strong gun control, but using dead kids as a bludgeon is merely a cynical manipulation of those same dead kids and their families.

    Rather than pointing to gun suicide rates among kids and saying, “Guns are bad and should be taken away from kids”, I’m pointing to the entire picture and saying, “Guns are inarguably a part of the teen suicide statistic, but they’re outnumbered by strangulation; why are the teens killing themselves in the first place?”

    Which perspective is the more compassionate, Greg? Which is the more inclusive? Which is more likely to get positive, measurable results?

    Guns do not cause suicide, but they certainly make it quick and convenient. Given the political climate in this nation, we may never have the kind of strong gun control you seem to be arguing for here. We might, however, be able to at least try to address the issue of teen suicide in general. Ideally, we can do both, but not if you persist in attacking potential allies and accusing them of being heartless.

    KristinMH @44:

    (Re my comparison of gun training to sex ed)

    Warren, while shooting a gun may be pleasurable, it’s not a basic human desire that (almost) all of us experience. It’s possible to go through your entire life without using or even seeing a gun in any context other than a TV cop drama, and to be totally fine with this.

    Fair enough, and I think you have a good point here. However, the life you suggest here is not the same life lived everywhere in the US; there are some parts of this country where gun ownership is essentially a way of life. Seen from that perspective, I think a cautionary and wise approach to education is far better than telling the kids nothing.

    Interestingly, I don’t really think it’s a problem (for the most part). I’ve never, ever seen a kid handle a gun without first being told, lengthily and repeatedly, about safety precautions, and I’ve never seen a young kid allowed to handle a firearm without a parent present and watching.

    The rural areas I’ve lived in might be exceptions, of course. But around here, kids do not glamorize guns, any more than they glamorize Allen wrenches or pencil sharpeners. Sometimes I wonder if the glamorization isn’t part of the problem.

    In fact I’d bet shooting is an acquired taste, like drinking alcohol or coffee, and if you didn’t train yourself to enjoy it and the cultural baggage surrounding it, no one would ever do it if they didn’t have to.

    While you might be right about both shooting and coffee, I don’t think you are about alcohol. Intoxicants seem to be inherently attractive. ;)

    For the shooting, part of it might be why you’re shooting. I can tell you from firsthand experience that (1) being able to drill a target near center at long range is very satisfying; and (2) hunting is a very, very messy thing that I won’t ever do again unless I have to.

  54. #54 Stephanie Z
    December 1, 2010

    Warren, given that you appear to be arguing to Greg that we shouldn’t note that the availability of guns means more kids are dead than would otherwise be and address that as its own issue, I doubt that we’re in agreement on this topic.

    As for your question about why people buy Toyotas, what has that to do with anything? Why did people keep buying Fords after Pintos started exploding? Why do people keep calling U.S.-made cars “rice burners” and talk about American jobs if the cars carry the name of a foreign-owned (or historically foreign-owned) company? The answer is that people are not rational about their automotive purchasing decisions in a culture that equates car ownership with personal identity through brand marketing.

    The same goes for guns, but the difference there is that the government is much less involved in making sure that those guns aren’t used to hurt anyone. If Toyota were to actually behave the way Greg described, there would be immediate, widespread calls for a governmental solution. That there isn’t a similar response with guns is indicative of the taboo we place on discussing this issue intelligently and with data.

  55. #55 Warren
    December 1, 2010

    Oh my, I’m going to have to self-respond. In replying to KristinMH and thinking about it further, I remembered two events. Both of these things happened in the same town I’m living in now, both when I was in high school, before I moved away (and later came back).

    In the early 80s, one of our high school counselors was purportedly cleaning a rifle, which he believed to be unloaded. It was not. The gun went off, and killed his young daughter.

    Also in the early 80s, a couple of kids my age (teens) were out hunting. One started digging around in his pocket for a Life Saver, fumbled his rifle – the safety was not on – and shot his friend to death.

    Both of these deaths were needless, the result of blind stupidity and carelessness on the parts of the gun owners. They were wholly responsible for their actions, and wholly responsible for forgetting how dangerous firearms are.

    I bring this up because of interest in full disclosure. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m implying that rural life is somehow safe in regards to guns; it’s not. However, I do know that our per-capita gun-death rates are lower than those to be found in urban areas, and I’d like to know why – since gun ownership here is virtually ubiquitous.

    Also – one more thing. I went to the rifle range a couple weeks back with my stepfather to help him make sure his .30-06 was sighted in prior to his elk hunt. While there, he tested a .22 revolver (personal protection) and I passed a few rounds through my Ruger (.22, target pistol), my Wather (.22, personal protection), and my Bersa (.45, home protection).

    After I was finished, I did as I always do and racked the slides after removing the clips. This engages a failsafe and locks the bolt open on an empty chamber. An automatic with the clip removed and the bolt open cannot fire.

    A live round was ejected from the Bersa. I’d fired six shots, not seven as I had assumed. Had I not checked the mechanism, I would have been carrying a pistol I believed to be unloaded – and the most dangerous one in my little personal arsenal.

    This is a cautionary example of two things: (1) Firearm safety should be an ingrained habit, not an afterthought; and (2) You can never assume a gun is unloaded – particularly an automatic – unless you’ve removed the clip and emptied the chamber yourself, and locked the bolt open.

  56. #56 Warren
    December 1, 2010

    Stephanie Z @54: I was referring specifically to the points you made in comment #38, where I believe we are in fact in agreement.

    [G]iven that you appear to be arguing to Greg that we shouldn’t note that the availability of guns means more kids are dead than would otherwise be and address that as its own issue, I doubt that we’re in agreement on this topic.

    That isn’t what I think I’m arguing, but I can see why it looks that way.

    What I think is happening is this. From my point of view, Greg seems to be pointing to teen gun suicides as an argument for gun control, and suggesting that those who question the premise are heartless.

    Meanwhile, what I believe I’m trying to express is that teen gun suicides are certainly something to be concerned about – in addition to the general background of teen suicides.

    The method isn’t the only thing to be concerned about, I think, though I do understand just how much easier suicide is with a firearm handy. The suggestion that I’m being inconsiderate of the dead kids or their families does not help either him or me (or anyone else, for that matter) come to any sort of detente.

    When you brought up the points that you did in comment #38, there was nothing you wrote that I could (or would) disagree with.

    As for your question about why people buy Toyotas, what has that to do with anything?

    If we’re going to draw an analogy between teen suicides and mismanufactured automobiles, I believe that we do have to look at the larger reasons of why those causes of death are being pursued, willfully and deliberately, in the first place.

    I agree that car purchasers are often irrational in their decisions. So are suicidal people. (At least, from an outside perspective; from the perspective of the person making any decision, his or her reasons are always eminently rational, or s/he wouldn’t make the decision in the first place.)

    The same goes for guns, but the difference there is that the government is much less involved in making sure that those guns aren’t used to hurt anyone.

    I agree. The NRA has pretty much effectively hobbled the Fed, by insisting on its own interpretation of Amendment II as being the One True Interpretation. It’s almost religiously fanatical with them, and it bothers me quite a lot.*

    If Toyota were to actually behave the way Greg described, there would be immediate, widespread calls for a governmental solution. That there isn’t a similar response with guns is indicative of the taboo we place on discussing this issue intelligently and with data.

    I suspect you’re right. I think there may be another angle to that, though – or actually a couple.

    As you mentioned, our society places social value on the kind of vehicle one owns. I’m sure you know as well as I do that our society also does the same with gun ownership. Firearms are frequently referred to as “phallic symbols”, and I think it’s incontestable that they actually are, for some gun owners.

    Also, guns are made with the express purpose of killing. Cars are not. I believe this might color the discourse as well. There may be a subconscious sense of what else did you expect? when discussing firearm lethality.

    If that’s what’s going on, it should be pointed out, to help keep it from derailing the larger discussion of what to do about irresponsible gun owners.

    The thought occurs, too, that BP is still in business despite their obviously shoddy safety record, in the face of public outcry. Money makes a big difference, and both BP and the NRA have a hell of a lot of it.

    ==

    * That scene in the first Men in Black movie with Edgar first encountering the Bug always makes me laugh. The Bug orders him to put his rifle down, and Edgar says “You can have my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands.” The Bug replies “Your offer is acceptable,” and proceeds to do precisely that.

    I just love that scene. First time I saw it in a theater I nearly peed my pants. Some days, I wish someone would respond to the NRA in the same way.

  57. #57 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2010

    Warren, first off, if you are going to hand me a ridiculous pitchfork, I’m going to use it. Then, when I use it, you have NO RIGHT to complain! Seriously. (“OMG, I said something ridiculous to Laden and he .. he …. he said it was Ridiculous!!!) It’s not like your pitchfork was a needled in the haystack that I had to work hard to find.

    Regarding this:

    teen suicide statistics are being employed to cast guns in a bad light. There are plenty of good, compelling reasons to support strong gun control, but using dead kids as a bludgeon is merely a cynical manipulation of those same dead kids and their families.

    That is just plain low, and is similar to what our friend from Texas is saying. Yes, teen suicides being MUCH more common with guns in the picture than they would be without, an undoubted fact, is very much the point. And it does “cast guns in a bad light”. This is not a cynical manipulation of anything. Telling me that this is a cynical manipulation and that I can’t refer to the suicide problem because daddy weeps when his son takes his pistol out of the dresser drawer and blows his head off … THAT is cynical. Jeesh.

  58. #58 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2010

    Both of these deaths were needless, the result of blind stupidity and carelessness on the parts of the gun owners. They were wholly responsible for their actions, and wholly responsible for forgetting how dangerous firearms are.

    And with better gun control more or less preventable. Guns have inadequate built in safety devices. A number of the accidents this year amoong Minnesota hunters were also due to inadequate safety devices in combination with stupidity.

    With responsibility, it is sometimes necessary to recognize that two parties/entities can each be pretty much “wholly responsible” … the gun lobby was partly responsible for what happened in these instances because they have thwarted all efforts to improve gun safety.

    Warren, here, let me fix this for you:

    “Also – one more thing. I went to the rifle range a couple weeks back with my stepfather to help him make sure his .30-06 was sighted in prior to his elk hunt. While there, he tested a .22 revolver (personal protection toy) and I passed a few rounds through my Ruger (.22, target pistol toy), my Wather (.22, personal protection toy), and my Bersa (.45, home protection toy).”

  59. #59 Warren
    December 1, 2010

    Greg:

    [I]f you are going to hand me a ridiculous pitchfork, I’m going to use it. Then, when I use it, you have NO RIGHT to complain! Seriously. (“OMG, I said something ridiculous to Laden and he .. he …. he said it was Ridiculous!!!) It’s not like your pitchfork was a needled in the haystack that I had to work hard to find.

    :D

    That wasn’t the point, though. You certainly waved the pitchfork with much skill, but in doing so, you drew attention away from the other items I mentioned that show – pretty conclusively, I think – that if someone wants to create havoc, he will. From homemade bombs to at-hand methods such as cars, a determined (or even spur-of-the-moment) miscreant will never be far from a means to do serious damage.

    That was the only point I was making, and while I agree that the concept of taking hostages with a pitchfork is mad, it’s an undeniable truth that homemade bombs have been used to blow up schools.

    teen suicide statistics are being employed to cast guns in a bad light. There are plenty of good, compelling reasons to support strong gun control, but using dead kids as a bludgeon is merely a cynical manipulation of those same dead kids and their families.

    That is just plain low, and is similar to what our friend from Texas is saying. Yes, teen suicides being MUCH more common with guns in the picture than they would be without, an undoubted fact, is very much the point. And it does “cast guns in a bad light”. This is not a cynical manipulation of anything.

    I simply disagree with you. There are plenty of other points that can be made in favor of gun control, such as restriction of access for criminals and generally reducing the ubiquity of them in the population, in addition to making suicide (and homicide) harder for most people to accomplish. Yet it’s the suicides – particularly the teen ones – that you seem to keep returning to.

    It’s emotionally effective, sure, but I’m not sure you’d want to make it your primary debating point for rational discussion. Given the tenor of your other responses to me, though, I’m not entirely sure rational discussion is what you actually want.

    Both of these deaths were needless, the result of blind stupidity and carelessness on the parts of the gun owners. They were wholly responsible for their actions, and wholly responsible for forgetting how dangerous firearms are.

    And with better gun control more or less preventable.

    I’m not sure how. In both cases, the firearms were under legal ownership. In the first instance the rifle was in the possession of a putatively-responsible adult. In what way would strong gun control have saved that little girl’s life? Or were you thinking instead of a more effective safety mechanism in that specific case?

    A number of the accidents this year amoong Minnesota hunters were also due to inadequate safety devices in combination with stupidity.

    …and, probably, alcohol. Guns + booze + dumb is always a terrible mix.

    Warren, here, let me fix this for you: [...]

    We’ve had this discussion before. Your equivalence of firearms with toys is invalid. As I stated quite clearly the last time you brought it up, I know the difference between my battery-operated plastic phaser and my .45.

    The only pistol I have you could justly call a “toy” is the Ruger, which I use for target shooting. That’s technically entertainment. Of course, it’s a damned dangerous toy, which is why you should be glad that I’m one of the firearm owners who is responsible and careful with his weapons, and who generally agrees with you about keeping them away from the irresponsible and stupid.

    Yet, again, instead of attempting to enlist me as an ally, you seem to want to bully me away. Stephanie Z and I seem to be able to disagree reasonably, and we even seem to have some common ground. I suspect you’d discover the same is true between you and me, but you don’t seem interested in investigating the possibility.

    Are you actually interested in engaging in dialogue at all, or would you prefer to recite a sermon instead? If the latter, you’d waste a lot less of everyone’s time by disabling the comments on these sorts of stories.

  60. #60 Greg Laden
    December 1, 2010

    Yet it’s the suicides – particularly the teen ones – that you seem to keep returning to.

    Well … it was kinda the topic of the post because this kid kinda committed suicide with a gun and stuff.

    I’m not sure how. In both cases, the firearms were under legal ownership. In the first instance the rifle was in the possession of a putatively-responsible adult. In what way would strong gun control have saved that little girl’s life? Or were you thinking instead of a more effective safety mechanism in that specific case?

    I’m thinking of safer safety mechanisms, and better training and antistupidity measures.

    OK, I’m sitting here with this little red, blue, green and white helicopter. If you put a ball through the hole in the top it plays a song. Different balls play different songs. So, naturally, I needed to figure out how to make the thing play the song without the balls, by tripping the mechanisms with my fingers.

    When I do that, nine out of ten times the helicopter goes “BOING” … which is a noise it never makes. Obviously, crazy people at Fisher Price figured that I (and others) would try to outsmart the mechanism, so they put in the “BOING” sound that only activates when unnatural things happen to the toy.

    If they can do that they can make a firearm that won’t dicharge while you are cleaning it. The only reason there is not one now is because a) no one has required it and b) any effort to even THINK about increased safety in the mechanisms is seen as an attack on gun ownership and vigorously opposed by gun nuts.

    We’ve had this discussion before. Your equivalence of firearms with toys is invalid.

    Iz not.

    Yet, again, instead of attempting to enlist me as an ally, you seem to want to bully me away.

    I totally consider you to be an ally. Please don’t make up an argument about how I’m not doing that right as a place to hid when you are wrong! (On some points)

    Seriously, this is a thread about a kid who committed suicide with a gun. You are telling me that I’m being a scoundrel because I keep coming back to the problem of kids committing suicide with guns. Is it really me who is not trying to make our relationship work?

  61. #61 Warren
    December 1, 2010

    Greg:

    Well … it was kinda the topic of the post because this kid kinda committed suicide with a gun and stuff.

    You know what? You’re right. I feel a bit foolish now to have obsessed on that point, when as you say the entire dadblang article was on that very topic.

    I’m thinking of safer safety mechanisms, and better training and antistupidity measures.

    Well, you know what they say about making something foolproof. Though the point about Fisher-Price is something to consider. If they can make a toy helicopter tamper-resistant, why not guns? Maybe FP should design the safety mechanisms.

    We’ve had this discussion before. Your equivalence of firearms with toys is invalid.

    Iz not.

    Iz too. :p

    I totally consider you to be an ally. Please don’t make up an argument about how I’m not doing that right as a place to hid when you are wrong! (On some points)

    I appreciate that. I’ll have to do a little insight work to see what it was about the discussion that got me so clenched up. It genuinely was blind of me to overlook the obvious here.

  62. #62 tits
    December 2, 2010

    tits lol

  63. #63 Jason Thibeault
    December 2, 2010

    For the record, I like Warren a great deal in this conversation. Especially for post 61. Anyone who can turn their mind inward after a conversation gets big respect points from me.

    That said, I live in Canada, where guns are relatively controlled, yet my grandmother hunts deer every season. Only in Toronto where illegal guns have made their way into gang hands from south of the border is gun violence a real problem.

  64. #64 WI Native
    December 2, 2010

    The reason they didn’t hear the first shots are because the classroom is at a far end of a hall away from the main commons area, the door was shut, and the walls are cement block. Looking back I’m sure some students or teachers will remember hearing something but doutful anyone would have thought it was gun shots. As far as no one noticing until the end of the day, why is that unusual? There were 23 students out of almost 800 that did not show up to their last class, not a big number to send alarms off to anyone.
    I’m sure the CHILD (since he held children hostage that were his same age, he himself must be a child?) did seem depressed as he was swinging a gun around a class room that included his closest friends. But Sam was in fact a REALLY good kid, from a very loving, caring, involved family. Do you remember being a teenager (I’m sure that was about 2 years ago for you)? Everything seems like the end of the world, they fight with their friends only to make up in a day or two, they think getting a D on a test is going to ruin their chances of college or a future of being whatever it is their dream is to be. His parents didn’t see anything unusal for a teenage boy.
    10 years ago in Menominee, MI (the community directly next to Marinette) a young man named Bart Stupak Jr. committed suicide in his parents home while all his friends were over for a Post Prom party. Bart Stupak Sr is a congressman, his wife, Laurie, was the Mayor of Menominee, and yet they did not scream “GUN CONTROL”. They did not see any signs prior to their son’s suicide. These are democrats who have a LARGE voice but instead of jumping on a gun control banwagon they focused on what caused their son to do what he did. They made their voice heard on what can cause depression. Gun control is a band aid to a larger issue. The way people deal with stress, depression, emotions, etc are what cause people to commit the acts they do. More woman commit suicide by over dosing on pills, and there are laws to prevent people from buying certain drugs over the counter but yet woman still find these drugs.
    This is a very sad and tragic situation in a small community and it’s hard to read things about families, school officials, and police that I personally know. It’s easy to be an outsider and make assumptions and sterotype kids that use guns but until you have experienced something similar, you could never know if you would blame the gun or that circumstances.
    I pray that all of you will never know the grief of losing someone to a suicide or have your child, sibling, or any loved one in a situation like Sam’s. May God forgive him of his sins.

  65. #65 Greg Laden
    December 2, 2010

    As far as no one noticing until the end of the day, why is that unusual? There were 23 students out of almost 800 that did not show up to their last class, not a big number to send alarms off to anyone.

    It isn’t unusual. But this exact scenario has not happened as far as I know and it points out an interesting flaw in security. In this case, there was only talking going on for a an hour or two. What if something else was going on for an hour or two and no one was aware? Just food for thought, really.

    I remember being a teenager. My daughter is a teenager. Your imply in your second paragraph that I’m denigrating the young man here, but I have not and am not. Your attitude and accusation is inappropriate and obnoxious, and causes me to question your sincerity or intelligence.

    I agree that core issues of depression and so on need to be dealt with. But the relevant data and science shows us that if, hypothetically, guns did not exist a very large percentage of the children who kill themselves would not have. Gun control (in this case, insisting that guns be better locked up, mainly) is not a band aid, and to say so is a terrible insult to the families of all those good kids who took their own lives so easily because daddy’s precious toy was left accessible to them.

    How dare you.

    t until you have experienced something similar, you could never know if you would blame the gun or that circumstances.

    How terribly obnoxious, and wrong, of you to assume that I have not experienced tragedy related to teen suicide.

    May God forgive him of his sins.

    You would do well to pay more attention to the world in which you actually live rather than the made up magic man in the sky world that deludes you. At the very least, it might improve your reading comprehension because you would actually read things rather than assume, incorrectly, what people have said.

    It also concerns me that your IP address is from Colorado, not Wisconsin.

  66. #66 Warren
    December 2, 2010

    Jason Thibeault @63 – thanks for the kind words; we’ll see how well the introspection sticks. ;) So let’s see – the flow of drugs comes up from south of the US border with Mexico, but we send guns over both that and the Canadian border.

    You know what that means? We have more exports! We win! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S- oh, wait.

    WI Native @64:

    Do you remember being a teenager[...]? Everything seems like the end of the world, they fight with their friends only to make up in a day or two, they think getting a D on a test is going to ruin their chances of college or a future of being whatever it is their dream is to be.

    All of these things are true, but in very few cases do getting Ds on a test or arguing with a friend result in suicide, particularly in a kid who was supposed to have been as well-balanced as Hengel.

    In ever fewer cases does it turn into a hostage situation that ends in suicide, in front of (as you put it) “a class room that included his closest friends.”

    [Bart Stupak's parents] are democrats who have a LARGE voice but instead of jumping on a gun control banwagon they focused on what caused their son to do what he did. They made their voice heard on what can cause depression. Gun control is a band aid to a larger issue.

    Good for the Stupaks on addressing depression among teens. Clinical depression (and its bastard cousin, bipolar) is devastating, and amplifies the normal daily miseries of teenaged life to the point where they can literally seem unbearable. In some ways bipolar is even worse, since you have the relative highs to contrast with your down phases, making them seem much darker.*

    Anything that can help increase awareness of these conditions is a positive step.

    However, the report states clearly (as you noted) that there was no evidence whatsoever that anything was wrong with Hengel. A brief bout of the blues is not – let me make this absolutely clear – not the same as clinical, diagnosable, treatable depression.

    True depression does not just switch on. You don’t go from feeling fine over the weekend to, literally, becoming a hostage-taker the very next day. Whatever Hengel might have been suffering from, I believe clinical depression wasn’t it. There would have been signs, such as withdrawal from friends and community, slipping grades, and a host of minor behavioral changes that everyone who knew him would be remembering now.

    Similarly, bipolar isn’t a likely cause here either – while you can switch from up to down in half a day or less, there are still lots of signs that people close to him would have noticed (particularly in retrospect) such as high-energy fugues that may have included going days with little or no sleep, speed-talking, etc., followed by episodes of such intense darkness that the kid couldn’t even be dragged out of bed, let alone made it to school with a bagful of weaponry.

    Your suggestion that gun control is a “band-aid” may or may not be correct. However, Greg does have a very good point: Had firearms not been accessible to Hengel, he would not have been able to take hostages at gunpoint, nor shoot himself. That is indisputable.

    More woman commit suicide by over dosing on pills, and there are laws to prevent people from buying certain drugs over the counter but yet woman still find these drugs.

    I don’t know what the stats are on how women commit suicide, but working from the presumption that your claim is correct, you’re still overlooking something important. Those meds have been (ostensibly) formulated and prescribed to treat medical conditions. Firearms have not, and never have been.

    I own a few pistols (or toys, as Greg calls them when he wants to tweak me a bit), and I know as well as anyone else that firearms are made expressly and entirely for the purpose of killing. It might be a deer, an elk, a duck, or a human, but there is no firearm anywhere that is made with the idea in mind of, say, painting a house. Yet while we seek to keep medicines out of the hands of those for whom they have not been prescribed, there is a vocal element of US culture that insistes guns should be freely available to everyone.

    Equating suicide by firearm to suicide by medicine is a false equivalency.

    While reducing their availability to the general public will not eradicate all suicide deaths by firearms, taking steps to make them harder to get for young people will almost certainly have an effect on suicide statistics. (As well as accidental death and murder.)

    And, just to be infuriatingly pedantic, the plural of “woman” is “women”.

    ==

    * This is the voice of experience.

  67. #67 Remembering Samuel
    December 3, 2010

    Please visit http://sites.google.com/site/rememberingsamuel/ to remember Samuel, his family, friends and 5 transplant recipients with new hope for life, from Samuel’s tragic passing.

  68. #68 captainahags
    December 4, 2010

    @Warren: I’ve been reading this discussion, and I have to say that I admire your rational take on the issue, despite the fact that I am very pro-gun control. I have to say, if more gun owners were like you (or at least the way you describe yourself, since I don’t know you personally) the debate over gun control might be a bit more even tempered. I don’t completely know your opinion, so I’ll ask- how do you feel about the idea of making gun ownership more restricted, e.g. limiting the types of guns that are legal in the US and/or making it more difficult to access them?

  69. #69 JesseS
    December 13, 2010

    This is much after the fact and no one will probably read it but I went through the entire comment thread and I have to say Warren’s ability to rationally debate and be just generally respectful has seriously impressed me.